Optional Practical Training for Students in F-1 Status
Optional Practical Training (OPT) allows F-1 students to obtain employment in areas related to their academic major. OPT is available at each higher degree level. (Note: If you have used more than 12 months of full-time Curricular Practical Training, you cannot apply for OPT.) See below for information about eligibility for OPT, applying for OPT, and requirements while on OPT.
How to Apply for OPT
Application Deadline for Post-Completion OPT
Importance of the Actual Date of Program Completion
Authorization by USCIS
Actual Date Employment May Begin
Authorization May Not be Rescinded
Change of Employer after Beginning Post-Completion OPT
Effects of Period of Unemployment
Travel Outside of the U.S.
Eligibility Requirements for STEM OPT Extension
Application Process for STEM OPT Extension
Reporting Requirements while on OPT
H-1B Cap Gap Relief
Although a job offer is not required in order for OPT to be granted, the proposed employment must be directly related to your major field of study and it must be appropriate to your level of education. OPT may occur anywhere in the United States. F-1 students who have been in lawful status for one full academic year may engage in OPT during any of the following times during the course of their study:
- During annual vacation times;
- Part-time (up to 20 hours per week), while school is in session;
- After completion of all course requirements, excluding thesis or equivalent;
- After completion of studies.
Students enrolled in English language training programs are not eligible for optional practical training.
Submit the following to the Office of International Students and Scholars at least 90 days prior to requested beginning date of employment:
* Complete the form electronically (not hand-written) and print it.
* In Box 3, write the OISS office address: 105 Main Street Thompson Hall OISS Durham, NH 03824-3597. (Do NOT put "in care of" or "c/o" in the address line).
* Enter the correct code in Box 16: Pre-completion OPT (c)(3)(A)
Post-completion OPT (c)(3)(B)
17-month STEM Extension (c)(3)(C)
- A copy of the employment offer (if available).
The OISS staff will review these documents and if appropriate, issue a new SEVIS I-20 with a recommendation for Optional Practical Training. The original Form I-765 will be returned to you for submission to the US Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS).
Submit the following to the USCIS at:
For USPS (snail mail) deliveries
PO Box 660867
Dallas TX 75266
For Express Mail and Courier deliveries
2501 S. State Hwy 121 Business
Lewisville TX 75067
- Photocopy of your SEVIS I-20 (both pages) bearing OISS recommendation for OPT;
- Completed Form I-765 with original signature and the appropriate code in Box 16;
- Personal check, Money Order or Certified Bank Check for filing fee made out to the "U.S. Department of Homeland Security" (do not abbreviate). Staple the check to the front/top of the entire packet. Check the current filing fee.
- Copy of Form I-94;
- Copies of certain passport pages (photo, date of birth, date of passport's issue and expiration, F-1 visa);
- 2 passport style photographs, with your name written lightly in pencil on the back. Do not staple photographs to your application! We recommend that you place the photos in a small plastic bag and then attach the bag to the application.
- Copies of ALL previously issued I-20's (front and back), if applicable; and
- Copy of previous EAD card (front and back), if applicable.
- For STEM extensions, include a copy of the degree conferred or transcript showing the major field of study in a STEM field.
E-Notification: If you want to receive an email and/or a text message that your I-765 has been accepted at the USCIS facility, complete form G-1145, E-Notification of Application/Petition Acceptance, and clip it to the first page of your application.
After completing one full academic year, students may engage in pre-completion OPT. Pre-Completion OPT may be full time during the summer. During the academic year, pre-completion OPT must be part time, unless as a graduate student, one has completed all course requirements and has only thesis or dissertation remaining to complete the degree program. The application process for pre-completion OPT is the same as described above. Allow sufficient time for USCIS processing.
Under regulations issued in April 2008, USCIS will accept applications for OPT submitted up to 90 days prior to and up to 60 days following completion of the degree program. OPT employment must begin no later than 60 days following the completion of the degree program.
Immigration regulations consider your program completion date to be the date you have fulfilled all requirements for a program of study, not the date you participate in graduation ceremonies and receive a certificate or diploma. The Service ignores your formal graduation date because it realizes that many students, especially graduate students, may complete requirements for a degree any time during the year. Your lawful F-1 status expires 60 days after the date you complete degree requirements and you are expected to leave the country by that date unless you have filed an application for practical training or make other arrangements to lawfully remain in the U. S.
If your application is approved, you will receive an "Employment Authorization Document" (EAD) from the USCIS. The EAD will be mailed to the address listed on the Form I-765.
You may not begin work until:
(1) you have obtained an EAD from the USCIS,
(2) the date is reached when the EAD authorizes employment to begin.
Once authorization to engage in OPT has been granted and an EAD has been issued, authorization may not be rescinded or canceled and you will lose the employment benefit. Consult with OISS before taking any action that may jeopardize your OPT.
You may change employers after you have begun authorized employment provided the new job is (1) directly related to your major field of study and (2) appropriate for someone having your level of education. See below for your and your employer’s responsibilities for reporting changes to OISS.
During post-completion OPT, F-1 status is dependent upon employment. Students may not accrue an aggregate of more than 90 days of unemployment during any post-completion OPT carried out under the initial post-completion OPT authorization. Students granted a 17-month OPT extension may not accrue an aggregate of more than 120 days of unemployment during the entire 29-month OPT period. See below for more information about the additional 17 months of OPT.
An F-1 student with an unexpired EAD issued for post completion practical training and who is otherwise admissible may re-enter the US to resume employment after a temporary absence. The EAD must be shown in combination with a letter from the employer and an I-20 endorsed for travel and re-entry by OISS. OISS signatures for travel and re-entry are valid for six months while on OPT.
To be eligible to apply for the 17-month extension under USCIS regulations announced in April 2008, a student must
- Be currently employed under OPT in a job directly related to the student’s major area of study;
- Have successfully completed a Bachelor's, Master's, or Doctoral degree in a field on the Department of Homeland Security’s STEM Designated Degree Program list (http://www.ice.gov/sevis/stemlist.htm) from a SEVIS-certified college or university;
- Have a job or a job offer from an employer that is registered with the E-Verify employment verification system. For more information on E-Verify, visit http://www.dhs.gov/e-verify;
- Have NOT previously received a 17-month OPT extension after earning a STEM degree;
The employer must agree to report the termination or departure of the student to OISS or through "any other means or process identified by DHS."
- A letter from the employer describing the nature of the on-going employment and verifying both the employer’s participation in the E-Verify system and understanding of the employer’s reporting requirements;
- A statement from the student that the student has not previously used a 17-month OPT extension and understands his/her reporting requirements; and
- A completed I-765 form showing the correct code in Item 16 and the required information in Item 17.
To apply for the 17-month extension, the student must submit to USCIS:
- Completed I-765 form with original signature;
- Copy of the degree conferred showing the major field of study;
- Appropriate filing fee;
- Copy of I-20 showing 17-month extension.
For the Student:
Within 10 days, a student on OPT must report to OISS if any of the following changes:
- Legal name
- Living and mailing address
- Email address
- Employer name
- Employer address
- Job title or position
- Supervisor name and contact information
- Employment start date
- Employment end date
The student must report to OISS every six months (via email to email@example.com) confirming the information above even if there have been no changes. The requirement to report continues if the student’s 17-month STEM extension is further extended by automatic cap-gap extension.
For the Employer:
The employer must report to OISS the termination or departure of the student. An employer must consider a student to have departed when the employer knows the student has left employment or if the student has not reported for work for a period of five consecutive business days without the employer's consent.
Duration of Status (D/S) and work authorization will be extended for a student on OPT who has a timely filed H-1B petition with an employment start date of October 1 of the following fiscal year. This applies to all students on OPT, not just students eligible for the 17-month OPT extension. The extension of duration of status and work authorization would automatically terminate upon the rejection, denial or revocation of the H-1B petition that was filed on the student's behalf.
Additional information on employment is available from the Office of International Students and Scholars. The staff can also offer information, counseling and assistance on all other federal regulations related to maintaining your student status.
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